Comment Of The Day: “More From The Bulging ‘It Isn’t What It Is’ File! Unethical Quote Of The Week: Washington Post Deputy Editorial Page Editor Ruth Marcus

With today’s Comment of the Day, Jim Hodgson weighs in on bad analogies as well as related matters. Bad analogies are a frequent topic here, and The Great Stupid may represent the zenith of bad analogies in our culture—at least I hope and pray it is.

My father, who, like me, was a lawyer who seldom practiced law, maintained that “everyone” should get a law degree, because the kind of critical thinking that law school teaches is no longer available in most colleges. (Once it was taught in grade school). One concept legal arguments rely on constantly are analogies. This is why I found Ruth Marcus employing such a wretched and irredeemable one in the Washington Post so depressing and infuriating. Striking down a vaccine mandate not supported by the law is inconsistent with the Court running its own operations with requirements that those who come into contact with the mostly high-risk Justices have to take very precaution is hypocritical? How? Why? Marcus is a Harvard Law School grad: she was taught better reasoning than that.

I see terrible analogies everywhere. Comparing Donald Trump to Hitler was ridiculous, but comparing the January 6 riot ( when “our government was almost overthrown last year by a guy wearing a Viking hat and speedos,” as Marco Rubio deftly put it) to Pearl Harbor was more ridiculous still, and the Vice President did that, more than once. Was making that idiotic analogy worse than the President calling limits on mail-in balloting the equivalent of Jim Crow laws? Or worse than claiming that enforcing the nation’s borders is “racism”? Actually, this might be a fun parlor game: “The Worst Analogy.”

Here is Jim Hodgson’s Comment of the Day on the post, “More From The Bulging “It Isn’t What It Is” File! Unethical Quote Of The Week: Washington Post Deputy Editorial Page Editor Ruth Marcus”…

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Misleading analogies and false equivalencies are among the favored tools of today’s “journalists.” The Progressive Left and the media (but I repeat myself) have a clear agenda and it isn’t good for the republic. Forty years ago, I railed against the (comparatively mild) bias of news anchors; nowadays they look almost Fox News-ish by comparison.

Marcus and her ilk aren’t really trying to convince “searchers for the truth,” they are merely reinforcing the beliefs and attitudes of those in the “woke bubble” and reaching out only to the easily swayed. I spend a few hours most days reading a variety of news sources online, trying to get an accurate and more complete view of national and world events and issues than I find from any single source. I know not everyone makes this effort, and I regularly refer friends and family to articles and sources (including E.A.) that I think will improve their understanding of issues and events. Continue reading

AARGH! The University of Michigan Firing Its President Made Me Think About Bill Clinton Again!

Mark S. Schlissel, the president of the University of Michigan, was fired  yesterday after an emergency meeting of the Board of Regents His relationship with a subordinate at the university had been revealed by an anonymous whistleblower who was, ironically, named Linda Tripp. Nononono! I’m sorry: damn flashback again.

The Board easily concluded that Schlissel had violated university policy and behaved “in a manner inconsistent with the dignity and reputation of the university.” His employment was terminated effective immediately, canceling a contract that would have continued paying him his base salary of $927,000 for four more years. The letter to Dr. Schlissel informing him that he was being fired said the complaint had arrived on December 8. “There can be no question that you were acutely aware that any inappropriate conduct or communication between you and a subordinate would cause substantial harm to the dignity and reputation of the University of Michigan,” the letter said.

The month long investigation triggered by the anonymous tip revealed dozens of email exchanges using “inappropriate tone and inappropriate language,” and showed that Dr. Schlissel used official business to carry out the relationship. His conduct was “particularly egregious,” the letter said, because he had taken a public position against sexual harassment, handing out pens to feminists like Bella Abzug after signing into law an anti-sexual harassment…no, I’m sorry, that was Bill Clinton.  Schlissel had only used the occasion of a university provost, Martin Philbert, being accused of sexual misconduct in August 2020 to send a letter to the university intoning that “the highest priority” was to make the university “safe for all.”

Dr. Schlissel, who is married and has four grown children. His wife, in response to the firing, immediately declared his demise to be the result of a vast right wing conspiracy. DANG! There go those flashbacks again!

I vowed a while back not to write any more about Bill Clinton. It was, as a few of you remember, the revolting ethical blindness revealed by Clinton’s defenders during Monica Madness and the even more revolting hypocrisy by passionate feminists who refused to condemn the POTUS’s text-book sexual harassment of a lowly intern (Bill supported abortion, you see, so that gave him immunity) that got me into the ethics blogging trap in the first place.

As an ethicist, I found the rationalizations being thrown out to get Clinton off the hook copious and nauseating, beginning with “Everybody Does It,” Number One, and including the worst of all. #22, “It’s not the worst thing!” Even though Clinton used Monica Lewinsky as his personal inflatable sex doll in his workplace, during work hours, with the knowledge of other subordinates, Democrats and pundits insisted on dismissing this as “private, personal conduct.”

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The YouTube Ethics Dilemma: I Need The Platform, But It’s A Censorious, Partisan Propaganda Machine

I don’t miss Twitter much. I quit the social media platform last year, disgusted with its blatant partisan censorship, its censoring of Donald Trump, and the odd way it flagrantly maintained a double standard in which misleading or questionable progressive tweets were opinions, but misleading or questionable conservative tweets were lies, mandating the tweet-monger’s banishment.

I also had been warning lawyers in my ethics seminars to eschew Twitter at all costs, since, I said with my tongue only slightly piercing my cheek, using it lowered the average lawyer’s IQ by between 15 to 25 points. (I estimated this on the evidence of poor former Harvard Law icon Larry Tribe, whose conspiracy theory tweets and ethics rules beaches on the platform raise the rebuttable presumption that he has entered the Biden Zone…not that this obvious decline has stopped the Washington Post and New York Times from publishing his increasingly over-heated and badly-reasoned op-eds.)

I decided that I should take my own advice and leave Twitter. Besides, my involvement with Twitter in the end consisted solely of issuing links to Ethics Alarms posts, which elicited virtually no traffic or retweets at all. (Except for you, Opal!)

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More From The Bulging “It Isn’t What It Is” File! Unethical Quote Of The Week: Washington Post Deputy Editorial Page Editor Ruth Marcus

“How nice for the Supreme Court. It can take the precautions it deems necessary to keep its workplace safe…If only the court were willing to extend similar protections to the rest of us, in our workplaces. Or to be more precise, not to interfere with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s effort to provide such protections.”

—-Ruth Marcus, long-time WaPo op-ed writer and deputy editor of the Post editorial page.

Marcus’s opinion piece, Boris Johnson in reverse: The Supreme Court gives itself what it bans for the rest of us” is unforgivable, and the Washington Post should be excoriated for publishing such garbage. Why didn’t the editors…oh. Right. Ruth Marcus is an editor. The essay would be inexcusable if Marcus were just a typical op-ed partisan loud-mouth, because it is one of those punditry pieces that makes readers more ignorant than they were before they read it. The Supreme Court didn’t “ban” institutions or employers from making their own rules about Wuhan virus precautions as the headline says. It banned a vaccine mandate issued by OSHA, an agency, it concluded, that had no legal authority to issue one.

But Marcus isn’t any ordinary incompetent pundit. She’s a lawyer, or at least graduated from Harvard Law School: I can’t determine whether she ever passed the bar examination or is licensed to practice. She never has practiced, since she entered journalism rather than law after getting her Harvard JD. It’s no excuse. She knows what the Supreme Court does; most Americans don’t. Why is she writing op-eds that falsely pretend that the Supreme Court “extends” protections over anyone or anything unless it deems that those protections are already guaranteed by law? Marcus “reasoned”…

The court’s 6-to-3 ruling Thursday blocking the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test mandate is yet another example of the elite playing by one set of rules while applying a different standard to the masses — Boris Johnson-ism, but worse. In that case, the British prime minister partied away in defiance of rules imposed on lesser mortals. In this one, the justices declined to extend the same protections to others that they grant themselves.

Not only are lawyers trained to make better analogies than that, opinion writers are supposed to be able to make better analogies than that no mater what their background and training. If they can’t then they shouldn’t get published. Boris Johnson violated a directive that his government issued for the rest of the population. The Supreme Court hasn’t done anything like that. If has forbidden a government agency from abusing its power by forcing businesses to do what is beyond the agency’s authority to require. No government agency could require participants in a workplace to wear business attire, and SCOTUS would end any attempt to do so, but it wouldn’t be “the elite playing by one set of rules while applying a different standard to the masses” for the Court to continue to enforce its own dress code, by its own choice.

Does Marcus really think it would make any sense at all for the Court to announce, “Since we’ve concluded OSHA shouldn’t be able to fine businesses with 100 workers or more to require employees to be vaccinated, the Court will no longer require lawyers appearing before it, and the reporters in the chamber, to test negative and be masked, except when speaking.” That would be a non-sequitur. Incidentally, those requirements are dumb, since speaking is when the danger of spreading the virus is at its highest. Nor does the Court set any standard for masks, which are mostly for show. Well, never mind: more than half the Court is over 65, meaning that they are at high risk if infected, while the vast, vast majority of workers who would have been effected by the banned mandate are under 65. That’s just another reason Marcus’s analogy is ridiculous.

What is Marcus doing then? She is doing what so many desperate progressives and Democrats are doing now—abandoning honesty, fairness, and responsibility and integrity in a desperate effort to rescue Joe Biden and the unscrupulous Democratic Party from losing power and support, as they so clearly deserve to do. They will do and say almost anything; here, Marcus is attacking the Supreme Court as she attempts to give those spreading the false narrative that the SCOTUS is a “threat to democracy” more ammunition to de-legitimize its authority. She has to know her argument is nonsensical, but she is confident that enough readers are ignorant of law and logic that he op-ed will convince more people than it disgusts.

This is a major betrayal of trust. Deliberate efforts by perceived authorities, experts and professionals to abuse their credibility by deliberately making members of the public ignorant and stupid represents a particularly heinous form of unethical conduct. It is one that Ethics Alarms has flagged frequently, yet I do not have a convenient name for the practice. It is worse than lying, or spreading misinformation. Making the public dumber cripples citizens’ ability to function competently in a democracy, while simultaneously softening them up to be exploited by demagogues. It is a terrible, indeed evil thing to do, and any journalist, politician, elected official, lawyer, scientist or other elite authority who engages in it intentionally is, to quote our previous President in one of his most inspired moments, an “enemy of the people.”

Ruth Marcus, with this disgraceful op-ed, qualifies.

Elon Musk Is Not A Nice Guy, And A Legal Ethics Controversy Proves It

The legal ethics world is all in a fluster over a recent controversy involving Elon Musk, the world’s richest man. This means that readers at Ethics Alarms should be flustering too.

This is the story: An SEC  attorney had interviewed  Musk during the agency’s investigation of the Tesla CEO’s 2018 tweet claiming to have secured funding to potentially take the electric-vehicle maker private. The claim proved to be false, resulting in a settlement that required Musk to resign and also to pay 20 million dollars in fines. In 2019, Musk’s personal lawyer called the managing partner at Cooley, LLP, and demanded that the firm fire the SEC lawyer, who had left the agency to become as associate at the large firm that handles Tesla’s business. The targeted lawyer had no connection to Tesla’s legal work at the firm; the sole reason for the demand was revenge. Musk wanted him to lose his job because he was angry about their interaction at the SEC. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Catch-Up, 1/15/2022: Everything Is Seemingly Spinning Out Of Control!

Watch the spinning circles…you are getting sleepy…sslleeppyy! Now: you are ethical! And a fan of the Boston Red Sox!

Nothing? Well, it was worth a shot.

Today is pretty much a dud in ethics history, with the major exception that January 15 is the birthday of Martin Luther King. Not related to ethics but still a favorite historical landmark of mine, this date also marks the most inherently comic of all disasters, the 1919 Great Boston Molasses Flood, in which a huge tank at the United States Industrial Alcohol Company building burst and caused tons of hot molasses to sloooowly move through the heart of the city in an 8-foot wave, killing 21 people, knocking down buildings, and leaving an unimaginable sticky mess that took weeks to clean up.

Why no disaster movie has been made about the unique catastrophe is a mystery.

1. Here’s an unethical boast...transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, who was born and went through puberty as a male,”compares herself to Jackie Robinson,” according to another member of the University of Pennsylvania woman’s swim team, according to the Washington Examiner. “She said she is like the Jackie Robinson of trans sports.” This shows a flawed understanding of Robinson’s achievement. Lia would be closer to the mark if Jackie infiltrated the segregated sport of baseball by disguising himself as a white player, but even that’s not quite right, since it misses the unfair competition aspect of what Thomas is doing. She is more like the Barry Bonds of trans sports. Continue reading

And Now For Something Completely Stupid: The Unethical Satire Of Joe Matthews

Joe Mathews is co-president of the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy. He has written an op-ed piece arguing that California should “abolish parenthood.” The usually astute people at Legal Insurrection (if someone can explain why  all of those annoying breaks are in the title, please do) apparently think he’s serious; I don’t, but it doesn’t matter. If your satire is so inept that nobody can tell it’s a joke, then it is more hoax than satire, a deliberate lie to make people feel dumb who believe it so you can mock them afterward for being gullible.

This thing by “California Joe,” as he calls himself on-line, is worse than that: in this environment of near-complete progressive derangement, his absurdist piece is like a flaming match tossed into a dry forest. That’s wildly irresponsible.

Joe will doubtlessly defend his satire as “Swiftian,” but there was never any danger that the English would start eating children to solve poverty, over-population and hunger. That’s because Jonathan Swift’s satire was funny, as competent satire is supposed to be, and because the British of his era were not insane. “California should abolish parenthood, in the name of equity” is not funny, and it is not far enough removed from other truly terrible, totalitarian ideas being advanced by Woke World that the author can be confident that his gag won’t find its way into a movement. Remember too, that the state taking children from parents has been a totalitarian strategy in the Third Reich, Soviet Russia, and Red China. Continue reading

Yikes! I Better Finish “Will The Audacious ‘It Isn’t What it is’ Propaganda Assault By The American Left Succeed?” Quick Before The Answer Is Too Obvious To Bother With: The Democrats’ Amazing Filibuster Hypocrisy

Wowie Zowie, Democratic “It isn’t what it is” grandstanding is reaching record heights faster than I can comment on them!

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), cementing her Ethics Hero credentials that (I admit) I doubted would stand up in June) delivered a speech yesterday in which she reiterated her  support for the filibuster, pretty much killing Democrat Party efforts to unilaterally change the rules to enable the party to ram through legislation that would federalize elections and permanently weaken their integrity. The filibuster is a long-standing procedural device that requires three-fifths of Senators to agree in order to advance toward a vote. It is very much a pro-democracy measure, instituted to prevent a bare Senate majority from passing important and controversial legislation without bi-partisan support. You can’t have a smaller Senate majority than Democrats do now, with a 50-50 split only enhanced by the Vice-President’s tie-breaking vote.

Sinema said that she personally supports both the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, but does not believe it is wise to kill the filibuster. “And while I continue to support these bills, I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country,” Sinema said. “There’s no need for me to restate my longstanding support for the 60-vote threshold to pass legislation.” 

She did this despite President Biden’s disgraceful speech this week claiming that anyone who continues to support a filibuster to stop his party’s voting rights legislation is choosing to “stand on the side of George Wallace over Dr. King, Bull Connor over John Lewis, and Jefferson Davis over Abraham Lincoln.” It had to be one of the worst examples of race-baiting as an illicit political tool of recent memory, particularly since the claims that the legislation has any connection to race is fictional. It is not discriminatory to require voters to prove who they are at the polls. It is not “racist” to limit early voting. I would eliminate it entirely: the procedure encourages blind, knee-jerk, fact-free partisan voting over voter consideration of all relevant information during the campaign. It supports incompetent democracy. It is not racist to place limits on mail-in voting, vote-harvesting, or drop-boxes. It is responsible. Moreover, allowing such easily manipulated weaknesses in election controls encourages distrust in the final results.

It is profoundly disturbing that all but two Democratic Senators have the courage and respect for democracy to oppose the filibuster rule change, and apparently none will stand up for the integrity of elections. Meanwhile, Sinema is being called a racist and a foe of democracy for doing the right thing. Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Republican Virginia House Of Delegates Member Wren Williams

Williams is concerned about what Virginia children are taught in schools, so he introduced House Bill No 781, “relating to public elementary and secondary schools; student citizenship skills; certain instructional policies prohibited, parental rights; disclosures; penalties; other remedies.”

Among the provisions offered by the patriotic Virginian is approval of public schools teaching “the founding documents,” including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, excerpts from the Federalist Papers, the writings of the Founding Fathers and Alexis de Tocqueville’s“Democracy in America” and “the first debate between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.”

You know, the guy standing next to Abe here:

Wait: are you sure you have the right Douglass/ Douglas, Wren? Might it be this Douglas…

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Authentic Frontier Gibberish Of The Year (So Far): Kamala Harris

Normally, I would be confident that a stunner like this would be a guaranteed winner, but, 1) this is Kamala Harris, and she frequently talks like English is a foreign languge and 2) her two most high-ranking Democrat colleagues, President Biden and Nancy Pelosi, are also likely to make no sense for extended periods, though in their cases…well, let’s just leave it at that.

On the Today show, Craig Melvin asked the eminently qualified Vice President—she’s “of color,”,female, and has a pulse—- whether it is time for the White House to try a new strategy to deal with the pandemic. This was Harris’s verbatim answer:

It is time for us to do what we have been doing and that time is every day. Every day it is time for us to agree that there are things and tools that are available to us to slow this thing down.

Now who can argue with that? Melvin, since he works for NBC and has no Continue reading